Nobody likes a breakup but just like in our personal lives, professional breakups with clients are also inevitable at times. Sometimes it's just not meant to be and it's better for both parties to go their separate ways!
There are plenty of red flags that can pop up letting you know that it's time to say goodbye to your client.
Whether that's down to them being a bad fit for your agency or being disrespectful towards you or your team, sometimes you just know it's time to let go. Luckily for you, we’ve put together a list of the most commonly missed signs that it's time to say goodbye to a client and how to do it all nicely.
We hope these pointers will help you take the first step in saying farewell to any clients that aren’t adding value to your agency in one way or another.
Here are 4 signs that it might be time to say ‘goodbye’ to a client.
The client isn't aligned with your mission and values
Sometimes, it’s just not meant to be. Have you ever worked with a client and it just doesn't feel right? They don't align with your values and you don't enjoy the work or feel like it's the work your agency wants to be doing? This is probably a moment to use the classic “It’s not you, it’s me” line.
It can be easy to get into the approach of taking on clients of all sorts, especially if your agency is new and only starting out. You might think to yourself, “any client is better than no client” but this isn't necessarily the case. In fact, taking on clients that don’t align with your values and don’t fit into the work you want to be known for can be damaging for your agency and can start to lead you in different directions than you had originally planned.
If you’re working with a client that doesn’t align with your agency, then you're going to be putting so much more effort in and spending more resources on them than a client that is a better fit for you. When it comes to clients that you're trying to align with, ensuring that they build on the foundation of what you already offer is extremely important.
In the long run, staying true to who you are as an agency and only working with clients that are the right fit will help you stay focused and stay clear of the wrong clients.
Your client isn’t respectful of your time or communication boundaries
Do you have a client that sets you unrealistic deadlines and seems to think that you are there to serve them, and them only? Or how about a client that seems to think that you can work 24/7?
We’ve all been there, and nobody likes to have their time taken for granted.
Having a client that doesn't respect your time can be exhausting and can mean that your time and energy are being taken away from other important priorities if you don't step in.
Of course, we all understand that situations pop up and people need to reschedule or cancel meetings and that's okay from time to time. At the end of the day, we're all human. But if you have a client who constantly misses scheduled meetings or cancels last minute, this might be a sign that your client isn't respecting your time as much as their own.
Communication is key when it comes to a healthy relationship. It's important to pay attention to how things are going in the early days of an agency-client relationship, or even prior to taking on a new client. If you feel there are issues around expectations and boundaries from the get-go, stick with your gut feeling and let the client know that you’re not a good fit.
The client isn’t paying you what your worth
It's important to consider how much your client is paying you. Is this client a low-paying client but taking up 80% of your time? If keeping this client on board is getting in the way of your work with other clients, then it may be time to part ways.
I’m sure you’ve had clients past or present that take up an awful lot of your time but pay much less than other clients might. Something is not right when you're putting all of your time and energy into one of your lowest-paying clients.
Does your client see the value that you’re bringing to the table? If they’re not paying you what your worth then I think we both know the answer to that question. Know your own value as an agency, that way you’ll never settle for anything other than what you're worth in the future.
You should not be putting up with any sort of payment issues from your clients unless agreed upon. If you have a client who repeatedly fails to pay you on time, it's often a sign that your client doesn't respect the boundaries you’ve set with them around payment. If you’ve already tried to raise your price or set strict boundaries and that hasn't worked out well for you, then you need to let them go. It’s for your own good.
Your client is disrespectful towards you or your team
Respect needs to work both ways for a relationship to work, and I’m not just talking about romantic relationships here.
Do you have a client who speaks disrespectfully to you or your employees? How about a client that behaves inappropriately or someone that's just downright rude? This is a red flag. You would never treat a client disrespectfully, so don't accept it from your clients. At the end of the day, if you have a client who acts like this, you won't be losing anything from letting them go. In fact, the real damage would come if you were to stick with the client regardless of how poorly they treat you.
Not letting a disrespectful client go, is the biggest risk you can take. If a relationship isn’t going smoothly with a client; you are going to suffer; you’re most likely going to find it difficult to think about anything else; it's going to spill over into other aspects of your life, and it will likely effect morale across your team. If you’re overthinking the situation and wondering if you should let them go, then it's definitely time to take the leap.
Here’s how to break up with a client in the best way possible
Now that we’ve discussed the most commonly missed signs that it’s time to ditch a client, we’re going to let you in on some tips for doing it in the best way possible. During our fireside chat at Bandwidth, “Should you ditch your client?”, we picked up some top tips from our panelists, Elizabeth M’balu Oke, President, PivotPath, Gabriel Marguiglio, CEO and Founder, Nextiny Marketing, and Talia Wolf, Founder, GetUplift.
Have a strategy in place
When you're going to part ways with a client it's important that you have a strategy set in place. Elizabeth spoke about the importance of having a plan in place for moving forward, finding new clients who are the right fit for your agency, and also moving forward with boosting team morale after letting go of a client. It's key that you have a strategy for uplifting your team and establishing new client relationships in the aftermath of parting ways with a client.
Be kind and compassionate
Kindness and compassion are important when it comes to dealing with tricky situations, such as break-ups—romantic or professional! They certainly aren’t easy on either party so approaching it with kindness and compassion can really ease the client. This approach can help them to see that your coming from a good place and want the best for them as much as you do for your agency.
Gabriel mentioned that this can mean you are giving back to your client. If the relationship isn't working and you need to get your agency out of it asap, then sometimes the best thing you can do is to offer the client their money back or to work out some other kind of deal. If the goal is to cut the client loose, it's a win-win situation as they’ve got something from you and you’ve ended the relationship in a way that works for both of you.
Be clear and concise
It's important to be as clear as possible with your client when communicating with them about going your separate ways. Talia let us in on two of her tips for letting a client go in the clearest and most concise way possible:
Don't leave any room to negotiate. Let the client know that you have come to this decision and that it is not a discussion, in the nicest way possible let your client know what exactly is happening and why. This might mean delivering up until a certain date or letting them know your notice. Whatever it is, be clear about it.
Equip your client with as much information and support as you can. It’s important that you’re leaving the client in a good spot by recommending other agencies that would be a great fit for them while giving them the relevant contact details. Your client will appreciate that you have made an effort to help them find a better fit for them.
A lot of the time, when you're just starting off with your agency it can be hard to turn down clients, and we totally get that. Everyone needs to pay the bills and start from somewhere. Over time, it's essential to really focus on who you are as an agency, what your mission is, and what kind of clients you want to work with. Understanding these things about your agency will help you to eliminate any encounters with clients with which you don’t align, and will help you to find the clients that treat you with the respect that you deserve.